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Itch in PSC

Managing itch

Tips from people with PSC

Itchy skin can be a sign that there is a problem with your liver. If you get persistent itch out of the blue, you should contact your PSC doctor so they can investigate.

We understand. Itch is intolerable. It prevents and interrupts sleep and it drives you crazy when you’re awake. What can we do about itch? We’ve put together some tips on managing itch from people with PSC who’ve found ways to help relieve itch, or at least take the edge off it.

Thanks to our Facebook group members who have shared their tips on managing itch:

  • Medicines - never suffer with itch in silence when you have PSC. Tell your doctor. There are medications specifically for liver-related itch that can help. It is important to let your doctor know if your prescribed medicine doesn’t work, because other medicines work in different ways, and might suit you better.
  • Keep your skin moisturised - your skin can feel dry, especially in homes with central heating. Emollients can sometimes help ease itch. Emollients are moisturising treatments applied directly to the skin to soothe and hydrate it e.g. Cetraben, Vaseline Intensive Care Aloe Soothe, and E45.
  • Use anti-itch creams - anti-itch creams can provide some relief for a short time for some people. You can buy these over the counter e.g. E45 Itch Relief cream.
  • Cool down - some people find taking a cool shower or bath helps with itch. Covering your skin in a wet towel could offer some relief. You can also make your own cooling cream by mixing menthol crystals with aqueous cream or buying it already made e.g. Dermacool. You can even buy cooling sprays e.g. Magicool Plus Itchy Skin Cooling Spray.
  • Loose, cotton clothing - wear loose clothing or none at all if possible! Avoid potentially itchy materials like wool because it can add further irritation to your skin and make your itch feel more severe.
  • Phototherapy (light therapy) - exposing the skin to certain kinds of light can help relieve itch for some individuals. Artificial light therapy is given in hospitals and some specialist centres, usually under the care of a dermatologist. Light therapy is not the same as using a sunbed and it is not recommended that anyone self-treats.
  • To scratch or not to scratch? You should try not to scratch, but we know that’s impossible when you have itch. Make sure your nails (or whatever your chosen scratching implement is!) are nice and clean. Scratching helps because the action confuses the nerve endings in your skin. Patting or stroking also tricks the nerve endings and causes less skin damage.